By Fazle Yar Khan
Global warming is posing high risk in the form of rapid melting of glaciers, increase in frequency of floods and droughts in South Asia. On the global level, climate change has become an issue of grave and immediate concern having far-reaching effects on agriculture, natural resource as well as on energy sector.
The emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, due to fossil fuel burning and industrial activity are not only causing a rise in temperatures but also damaging the ozone layer (lying between 10-17 km from the earth surface) which blocks harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth surface. During the past century, global temperatures rose by nearly one degree Celsius (due to burning of hydrocarbons and deforestation) and are expected to increase further by 1.4–5.8 degree Celsius by 2100.
Being an agro-based economy, Pakistan is extremely vulnerable to climate change as the agriculture sector alone contributes 21% to GDP of the country. Being at 135th position in terms of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, Pakistan has been ironically ranked 7th in terms of vulnerability to climate change.
Although impacts of climate changes are direct on our environment, e.g. in form of rapid melting of glaciers, early snow melting, increase in flash floods and shifting in rainfall pattern, many of our activities are also causing degradation of the environment vigorously. Emissions from large number of automobiles, industrial pollution and improper waste disposal like in Chitral area are degrading the natural ecosystem and surrounding environment that would ultimately have far reaching impacts in this region. Although some of these are requirements of current life but we can minimize their effects by clean and green environment.
The environmental degradation could severely impact our lives and sustenance if we are not timely prepared and mitigate the risk of any future disaster. Look at the recent floods we are facing since 2010, which had resulted in displacement of thousands of people from their homes. There is a dire need to chalk out a holistic policy that helps conserve and manage the resource effectively before it is too late. The water supplies in Chitral depend mostly on fresh water resource coming out of glaciers. If we did not preserve our glaciers resource then our next generations would have to face water shortage problems. Some of the solutions in our hands may include afforestation and safe disposal/degradation of plastic bags and other waste material.
It is normally observed in various parts of Chitral, especially in city area, that waste and garbage are dumped into Chitral river which ultimately degrades the environment and affects natural ecosystem. For that, administration and relevant authorities should take strict actions and make proper garbage system in places. If we do not realize our responsibilities regarding risk mitigation of climate change, we may suffer more severe problems in future. So, for that everyone should must cooperate in all well-fare tasks like reforestation, cleaning environment, controlling corruption which are not only the government responsibility alone who has many other works to do, e.g. establishment of waste disposal sites, proper treatment of wastes, development of environmental laws and their implementation etc. Waste disposal companies should be established which have experience in converting unwanted rubbish and solid wastes into biodegradable/recycled items, without creating negative impacts on the surrounding environment. Young generation has to play a vital role in this regard.
Awareness seminars and conferences need to be held in all educational and other institutions to familiarize people about global warming issues, mitigation and adaptation measures. I appeal to both the deputy commissioners and other concerned authorities of lower and upper Chitral to find ways to control environmental degradation on a priority basis. Ministry for Environment should set up base offices in both the districts so that they can play a role in providing sustainable solutions for climate change issues and rehabilitating clean and healthy environment in Chitral.
(The writer is geotech engineer/geologist at ACE MPhil hydrology from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad).